There was a full-page Re/Max ad in the Wall Street Journal recently, showcasing two dozen of the kind of homes you might expect to appeal to the paper's well-heeled readers. A $7.3 million estate on Lake Tahoe. A 70-acre Rehoboth Beach spread for $6.5 million. An oceanfront "country home" in British Columbia for $4.5 million.
And then there's the Baltimore rowhouse for $335,000. Is that really the best this city has to offer? Re/Max's own Web site shows 16 Baltimore properties listed for seven figures, from a $7.2 million penthouse in the Inner Harbor to a 1929 stone Tudor for a flat $1 million in North Baltimore.
Why go with the rowhouse?
The property - in the 1600 block of St. Paul St., near Penn Station - isn't as cheap as it appears, since it needs to be gutted and rehabbed, said Jay Hull, the local Re/Max agent who paid to have his listing included in the national ad.
"This particular property is a fixer-upper and could be worth as much as $600,000 or $700,000 [after improvements]," he said.
Journal readers haven't looked down their noses at it. Hull has fielded calls from investors in California, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Virginia, Ohio, and Texas
"Everybody's looking for a deal," he said.
Somebody slapped a faux finish on history
Antiques Roadshow viewers know this truism for fine old furniture: Don't mess with the original finish! If only the show had been around a half-century ago, when someone got the bright idea to "antique" the already historic rostrum in the state Senate chamber by splattering it with black paint.
"In the 1950s, it appears they speckled it with black paint to look antique, even though it was original to the structure," said Vicki Gruber, chief of staff to Senate President Mike Miller. "We're restoring that to its unspeckled form."
The de-speckling is part of a larger, $400,000 to $500,000 renovation of the Senate chamber, which dates to 1905. The biggest-ticket item (about $270,000 of it): Laying ductwork and rewiring the chamber for telephones, computers, the public address system and - let's not forget - voting.
They're also replacing the 20-year-old carpet and refinishing the senators' desks, which, I've been assured, are not historic.
Dog bites benefactor
John Coale, the Democratic fundraiser who lent Martin O'Malley's campaign $500,000 in the last days of governor's race, was invited to Government House for dinner shortly after O'Malley took office. The whole O'Malley clan greeted him at the door - Martin, Katie, the kids, even Scout the dog, who promptly bit the governor's benefactor in the behind.
"I'm walking in the door, I'm saying hello and I'm pulling out a gift for the governor - a Baltimore Colts pennant. And the [bleep] dog Scout jumps up from behind and bites me right in the [bleep]," Coale told me the other day.
It would take more than that to make Coale, who went to New Hampshire with O'Malley last weekend to campaign for Hillary Clinton, turn on the governor. But the O'Malleys, who have had Coale to the mansion several times since, are apparently taking no chances.
"Just about every time I see William," Coale said, referring to the O'Malleys' precocious son, "he comes running up and says, 'Don't worry, Scout's locked in the other room.'"
Connect the dots
Even during this particularly bloody stretch in Baltimore, police dispatchers haven't lost that lovin' feeling. Over the scanner last week, a dispatcher calling out somebody's name said: "The last name is Hall, as in Hall and Oates." ... Former Del. Don Murphy, who is John McCain's Maryland campaign coordinator, took issue with the state GOP's recent straw poll, which had his guy in the single digits. "The GOP 'Straw Poll' was more like a Fork Poll, as in 'fork' it over," Murphy e-mailed me. "You actually had to pay to vote for your favorite candidate. AND, you could vote as often as you liked, for $10 per vote. Talk about poll taxes." ... State Republican Party Executive Director John Flynn confirmed that the poll allowed voters to "show your support for your candidate and buy more votes." But so what? "We never said it was a scientific straw poll. It's to support the party by supporting their candidate." ... After 40 years, Sun night editor Dave Ettlin took a buyout from the paper and went straight to work in a new career, as an actor on The Wire. "I was a rewrite man," said Ettlin. "I played myself and had one line." He was not at liberty to divulge it. Ettlin said it was "a one-time gig" on the show, whose next-and-final season will revolve around the newspaper.